City of College Park
— Anacostia Trails Heritage Area —
From its pre-Civil War roots as the state's first agricultural college and one of America's original land grant institutions, the University of Maryland has emerged as a public research university of national stature, highly regarded for its broad base of excellence in teaching and research. Maryland's progress has been marked by tragedy, triumph and the incremental evidence of a rich history.
In 1856, a group of Maryland planters secured a charter for the Maryland Agricultural College, which would evolve into the University of Maryland, College Park. Two years later, the trustees selected 428 acres of Charles Benedict Calvert's plantation as the site, and the college issued stock to raise funds. Among the 34 students who enrolled in 1859 were the four sons of Charles Benedict Calvert.
In addition to spending one hour each day hoeing or plowing on the college farm, students took a broad range of courses in ancient and modern languages, natural sciences, English and mathematics.
The early years were marked by false starts, including mounting debts and temporary closure. To raise funds, the trustees sold off 200 acres of the original campus. In the ensuing early years, a series of state laws gave the college many powers—control of farm disease, state weather bureau, state geological survey, inspection of feeds, board of forestry and others—which were later separated from the school. By 1919, the college was organized into seven schools: Agriculture, Engineering and Mechanical Arts, Liberal Arts, Chemistry, Education, Home Economics, and Graduate School. That year, the first woman received a bachelor's degree.
The college became known as the University of Maryland in 1920, after the College Park campus and the professional schools in Baltimore were linked. In 1988, the Maryland General Assembly combined the five University campuses with the six Board of Trustee institutions into a University of Maryland System and named the University of Maryland, College Park as the flagship of the new system.
Captions on four photos from Special Collections, University of Maryland Archives:
On November 29, 1912, a fire begun at a Thanksgiving Dance destroys every dormitory, half of the classrooms and offices and most of the college records. Miraculously, there were no injuries or deaths.
Pyon Su, c. 1888. The first Korean to earn a degree at a U.S. college, Pyon Su was killed by a train shortly after graduating from Maryland Agricultural College. He is buried in nearby Beltsville.
The main entrance to the University of Maryland, circa 1930, seems modest compared to today's brick-arched entry, befitting a nationally acclaimed research university.
In 1887, the Hatch Act created federally funded agricultural experiment stations; the trustees offered the college farm and Rossborough Inn for that purpose.